the Emergency Almanac text / art double issue...winter 2003 / summer 2004

Bryan Tomasovich

Panorama Revival

Panorama Revival

The entire press and pulpit of Chicago endorsed the new panorama

the biggest of attractions, Karl Frosch's
Jerusalem on the Day of Crucifixion

and the opinions of distinguished clergymen
were front-page stuff:

Rev. C.W. Leffingwell: "A grand theme, grandly treated, and destined
to become a powerful help in the promulgation of Christianity."

Sold out all its shows in Milwaukee and was tugged
on barge to Hog Town, to the corner of Wabash and Panorama Place.

The Crucifixion
350 circular feet long and 50 high

a picture without boundaries

a contrivance, an apparatus encapsulates the rotunda crowd

a novelty of perspective

a view of nature that after 150 years of experimenting would turn
a soul inside out.

Experiments with a spiral staircase to disorient
the viewer on entry.
Spherements with light via the rotunda roof dome...
silk screens (before war-time parachutes, mind you)
shredded hessian, and smoked, ground
and glued glass.

At 628 W. Wells, Milwaukee, the light in the studio
shined from the Crucifixion by means of reflection.

La Nature a Coup d'Oeil
the Irishman, Barker, had coined it when he made
the patent application
from his dimly lit jail cell.

Rev. Dr. H.W. Thomas: "Frosch's Crucifixion arouses my interest, and I feel
that its influence is decidedly for good."

Who is this Frosch? Lured along with panoramicists
from Berlin, Dresden, Weimar
and Frankfurt... "enjoy German theatre
German newspapers
German beer gardens. We affectionately
call it, Little Munich."

Frosch leaves München for the Milwaukee Panorama Studio
to work in the style
of mass-production. Outlined the Crucifixion
on a grid system based on Frosch's sketches
done in the Holy Land (although some say it was Frederick Heine
the man from Leipzig
who had studied in Palestine).

Each man knew his part for the Crucifixion
pushed around the studio on scaffolding
pulleying up paint, pushing it around the canvas.

August Lohr painted the halo and clouds, anything in need
of chiaroscuro. Franz Rohrbeck, Roman guards
and blood on the ground. George Peter handled
the crown of thorns, the cross
and a few shanties in the background.

Heine, once a foreman in charge of the production
of The Battle of Atlanta
covered hair, sheep, all metal.

A few second-generation boys who stood out
at the newly formed künst academy
were put to the task of molding and stuffing 3-D objects
to hang from the roof. This, the faux-terrain, blended
with the bi-dimensional canvas. Mostly the apostles.

The few mistakes Frosch made he dabbed with a silk necktie.
He painted the wounds of Jesus.
And Christ's head slumped on His right shoulder.
This detail of the panorama
shows Jesus tenderly biting
into his own shoulder
the deep knot of muscle there
loosening in sacrifice.

A wound, both bruise
and a flowering of concentration
that would come to a martyr while staring down
the last frustration...familiar enough

stuff Frosch could witness at any popular
when a man over-exercised his gymnastics...

but divine too. The last contact with flesh
and from this detail of Jesus, the entire panorama crowd
would evolve. A reflection
on loss, some spiritual accuracy in Hog Town.
The criterion was to meet the sob
offered by Jesus, his last chance
of mobility. Be sure this was a moving grimace
and no thin-lipped smile.

Rev. Hugh Latimer: "Grand! Sublime! I wish we had more pictures like them,
the world would be all the better then."

Then...Frosch's Crucifixion was dismantled and removed from Chicago
by court order.

The world had more pictures like the Crucifixion. This one a hoax,
plagiarized. Exhibited 3 years earlier
by Frosch's old boss in Goethestrasse, city of München.
A boss
with a boss's name: Bruno Piglhein.
And he sues under new U.S. copyright laws and wins.

Milwaukee in a rut since the panorama revival died
when something bigger
and electric than Little Munich
was set off out west in Hollywood.

Why not, if no original fervor for Jesus exists
amongst the old Milwaukee panoramicists, look

to our own backyard? Did we want religion?
Marquette blessing the savage Indians.

Battle scenes? Black Hawk and Tecumseh.
The frontier was ample and no small-time.